During excavation work in 2008 to build a new luxury hotel on the grounds of Syon Park in west London on the bank of the Thames workers encountered buried objects. The Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) department now confirms that these are Roman artefacts dating from the 1st century AD.
Thousands of artefacts have been collected during the field work including a late bronze age gold bracelet, which has no context in the Roman settlement. Additionally notes the Museum: “Human skeletons found, could have been the remains of former occupants of the settlement, although the placing of the skeletons in ditches is particularly curious and more research is currently being undertaken.”
Jo Lyon, Senior Archaeologist at MOLA says “we have collected more than 11,500 pottery fragments, some of high status as well as many coins and jewellery. It is really just someone else’s rubbish–but it is treasure to us. We can now understand daily life during the mid-Romanization of Britain period. It was the height of their empire and they were spreading out. The area was settled for a sequence of 300 years.”
“The human remains,” comments Lyon, “were not found in a cemetery, but sort of in the back garden. It is extremely casual–odd even.”
The artefacts were found very close to the surface, less than 0.5 meter deep. The artefacts are all now in the MOLA lab being studied further. Hopefully there will be more to learn from this activity still.
The location is on the road between major Roman cities of Londinium (take a video tour of Londinium with history-buff Ian Smith) and Silchester and the settlement was likely a resting point for travellers. Interesting then that a new hotel is being placed in same area thousands of years later. It is a lovely spot overlooking the river. The new Waldorf Astoria hotel is planned to open in 2011 and may show some of the artefacts on their site. Hopefully the best pieces will not be auctioned-off to a private buyer like the Crosby Garret Cavalary Helmetthat fetched 2 million. However, the artefacts are on the property of the Duke of Northumberland, one of the wealthiest men in Britain, so it will be interesting to see what he decides to do with these discoveries.
The Museum of London Archaeology department is quite active helping construction companies to preserve the ancient heritage while still advancing the modern skyline and new buildings.